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Gila County is nation's leader in child support collection

Phoenix and Scottsdale readers may be surprised to learn that our neighboring county leads the entire country in child support enforcement and collection. Over the past two years, more than $10 million has been collected by the child support division of the Gila County attorney. The county is just one of four Arizona counties that handle their own child support collections, whereas all the others make use of the office of the state attorney general. However, on at least one occasion, the state attorney general's office transferred one of its difficult collection matters to Gila County for help in finding a missing parent. Within a month, caseworkers had not only found the individual but obtained a court order, served the legal papers and successfully arranged for the parent to appear in court.

The county attorney credits the hard work of her caseworkers who are said to act like detectives in tracking parents, enforcing existing child support orders and acting to resolve issues of paternity when necessary. It is estimated that Payson and Globe courtrooms handle in excess of 100 child support proceedings weekly. The first priority is to pursue civil remedies to ensure that parents are supporting their children. When those efforts fail, criminal charges are used to bring additional pressure on those obligated to pay. And the approach is indeed working, as evidenced by the county achieving a perfect score on internal audits three times running.

Amidst the still-faltering economy, child support remains a hot topic in Phoenix, Scottsdale and the rest of Arizona. The focus is on providing for the children who benefit from the payments. However, on occasion there are individuals subject to a support order who simply do not have the funds due to loss of a job, a medical infirmity or other reason. But rather than sit back and do nothing, those people would be better served by petitioning the appropriate court for a reduction in the ordered payments based upon a substantial change in circumstances. Failing that action, a parent behind on support payments can expect to face legal action based on their nonpayment.

Source: Payson Roundup, "County tough on child support deadbeats," Alexis Bechman, Feb, 14, 2012

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